By Bridget Galibois, Junior Editor-in-Chief
As Payton welcomes the class of 2026 into the building for the first time, it also welcomes a new cohort of teachers. This year, there are 22 new staff members joining the WPCP community! I met with Mr. Beatty, a new SECA and paraprofessional at Payton to hear his story
The Paw Print: What is your role at Payton?
Mr. Beatty: I’m a SECA, which is an acronym for Special Education Classroom Assistant, which is basically a one-to-one support staff. Your job is to follow a student’s schedule that needs a lot of one-to-one intervention and help doing school. This is in the diverse learners department so the students have IEPs, and a lot of them need help with organization, executive functioning skills, making sure that they get the work done. I basically teach a kid one-to-one in assistance to the diverse learner teachers and the regular education teachers.
The Paw Print: What has your experience been like so far at Payton?
Mr. Beatty: I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far. I think it’s great that a school like Payton has opened its doors to students that have diverse learning needs, because it’s a new thing that CPS changed their entrance requirements for these students, giving them a chance to be in an elite school like this. I think that’s fantastic because a lot of these students are actually really smart. They just don’t perform well on tests, and if the only entrance requirement is an entrance exam, then that will gate a lot of people out of schools that they could be a success in.
The Paw Print: What led you to come teach at Payton?
Mr. Beatty: I’m working on my Masters and I wanted to get more high school experience. I know that Payton is a great school and when I saw that they were hiring for diverse learner positions, as someone who also went to a Blue Ribbon high school, I felt like it would be a really good fit. It would be similar to the environment I came up through and I felt like I could help a lot of students because their experiences here would be somewhat similar to what I went through in school.
The Paw Print: What’s your experience in education?
Mr. Beatty: I’ve been working and volunteering in education since 2012 as a college tutor at my alma mater, North Central College. The youngest students I’ve ever taught were preschoolers, all the way up to teaching one-to-one to a 37-year-old student who was learning English from Japan. I’ve taught basically every age group, from the youngest kids to people almost 40 years old. I’ve worked with students over the summers on the west, south, and north sides of Chicago as a substitute, and during the pandemic, I worked as a one-to-one teacher with a student in-home. I’ve had a lot different experiences in education as a teacher, as a substitute, and as an assistant.
The Paw Print: What led you to choose a career in education?
Mr. Beatty: I chose a career in education because I know there are a lot of students for whom the school system doesn’t work for. I felt like as someone who experienced that but was still able to find success, after finding the right teachers and developing my own ways of doing things, I could be a positive role model for students who feel like there’s no one in the building that really understands them. There are so many teachers that went into education because they loved school, but there are a lot of kids who can’t relate to them. I went into education knowing that there are a lot of kids there that want to have a teacher that was successful but later— that wasn’t just a straight-A student from 5th grade on. That’s why I went into education, to show students that just because you’re not a straight-A student the first time you get grades, doesn’t mean you can’t become one later.
The Paw Print: How do you plan to support students in high school as they plan for the future?
Mr. Beatty: I intend to support students in high school by helping them learn about all of the things that you need to know before getting to college, because so much of a college prep school is about taking tests and getting in. I really want to help students build skills that will help them get good grades now, but also be the kind of things that they can carry into college. A lot of students, when they get into college, even ones that get A’s in high school, find that it is a very different game. College is very self-directed, and it’s very easy to just not do your homework, so my goal is to help students build those skills.
Paw Print: What’s your experience making sure every student gets their needs met to succeed?
Mr. Beatty: My experience is that when you’re honest and forthright, they will get their needs met. It’s all about advocating for the kids and teaching the kids to advocate for themselves. If you present it in a way that doesn’t seem overly burdensome, most people are willing to help. A big part of my job is making sure that the accommodations are filled on an IEP because I’m working directly with the student, whereas a regular teacher has maybe 100-150 students. When you’re in the Diverse Learners department, your main priority is that the students are able to keep up with class, fit in socially, and their accommodations are being met to have those outcomes occur at the same level that everyone else has.